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Waka waka – this time for Africa

September 23, 2012

Recipe for piri piri prawns (on the barbecue), Tribes restaurant Dubai, South Africa heritage day, and my first taste of tripe!

Africa - chillies, lemon, ginger, garlicIf I say ‘Chinese food’, what do you think of? Spring rolls, sweet and sour, chow mein, chop suey, dim sum…   How about American food? Hamburgers, hot-dogs, clam chowder, apple pie…. Now African food?

Drawing a blank? Me too. All three are vast continents with a diverse range of cuisines but somehow Africa remains elusive and hard to define.

The distances, the multiple tribes, the different languages (11 official in South Africa alone) a chequered history of colonisation and migrants, huge ranges in climate and fortunes. Perhaps it’s the misconceptions and assumptions about recording African history (interesting article here). My travels have taken me to three African countries and three completely different experiences of food. Libyan cuisine was a wonderful mix of North African and Arabic with Italian influences – some of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. The Egyptian diaspora has helped to forge what we think of as Middle Eastern cuisine in particular falafel, foul, and kosheri.

Piri Piri prawnsMy visit to South Africa was in 1997 and we ate fantastic fresh food served impeccably in great locations but most was Western-style. The exception was an ‘African’ restaurant in Cape Town which presented a series of plates throughout the evening resembling a game safari commentary. Zebra was followed by warthog, antelope and then springbok. We thought it was a bit bizarre to be eating their national emblem! I didn’t leave with a sense of local dishes though. Our trip was barely a year after South African Heritage Day was created by President Mandela as head of the first democratically-elected government on 24th September 1996.  In fact the great man himself  passed by just a few feet away from us while we were strolling round the Victoria and Alfred waterfront; we only caught a glimpse as he was surrounded by a throng of people desperate to see ‘madiba’.


So how strange more than a decade later,  to be sitting in a restaurant situated inside a shopping mall in Dubai, being spoken to in Zulu and offered the favourite home cooking dishes from a tribe.  I am in Tribes, a casual dining restaurant in the Fashion Dome of Mall of the Emirates. The menu is described as a fusion of exotic flavours taken from the African continent since the Tribal era, influenced by the Spice Islands of the East, the French in the West, the Malay & Dutch in the South and the Arabic flavours of the North. The waiting staff all originate from African tribes including Xosa, Nguni, Tawareq, Shona, Luhyia and Kikuyu.  The interior is unexpectedly cavernous, some areas a bit sterile due to harsh lighting but others really cosy (the nook behind the open kitchen with a stunning fire-pit).

The ‘hakuna mattata’ plate has a range of interesting things, some familiar like peri peri prawns, others less so like chicken giblets. But we are here to taste a special traditional menu including tripe stew with beans and tomato served with ‘pap’ and pan-fried calf’s liver served with yam mash. Manager Sipho assured us that this was exactly what his mother made for special gatherings and encouraged us to eat with our hands (we didn’t!). I took my first ever bite of tripe, the texture was soft, not chewy like I’d expected and the sauce tasty. The calves liver was made African-style, I’m more used to thinly-sliced and lightly cooked, this was strongly flavoured. The pap is made from finely ground maize and is a sort of porridge eaten daily by many people in Africa. The yam mash was very creamy (similar in texture to Turkish mashed potatoes), both were a good foil for the intense tastes of the meat.

My camera battery died – many thanks to generous Arva of I live in a frying pan for most of these lovely images:

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Tribes have put these items on the menu from 21-27th September and hope to encourage as many people from Africa who live or are visiting Dubai to come and celebrate Heritage day with them, as well as other nationalities.  On the day itself, the 24th, you can have your face painted with traditional designs and your photograph taken with authentic African shields and armour. Look out for the traditional drumming and singing too – it’ll put a smile on your face (this is more a family restaurant than a romantic meal for two venue). You don’t have to eat tripe or liver, by the way, lots of more approachable dishes were coming out of the kitchen while I was there and the puddings we had were excellent. Read more about Tribes by Ishita Debbie (GA) and Debbie.

Peri Peri prawns

Braai – the beloved country and a sleepover

Anyway, back to those peri-peri prawns – a recipe from Mozambique. I expected tasty (they were) and very hot and spicy (they weren’t). So I rustled up a batch of piri piri sauce at home and lit up the barbecue. Smeared over chicken Portuguese-stye was good and the sweet prawns were really fiery (which is good in our house!).  The weather is cooling down here in Dubai and barbecue season will start soon and carry on for month, after glorious month. My South African neighbours seem to be permanently in the garden as they fire up a ‘braai’ and it’s the third year that I’m cooking something for Jeanne at Cook Sister’s Braai, the beloved country event. Alliterative by accident – pears last year, pineapple the year before and now prawns.

I’ve booked my flight (with Airmiles ME) and I’m off to Food Blogger Connect at the end of this week. Guess who I’m staying with on Thursday? Jeanne from Cook Sister; who, despite never having met me before, has invited me to her home for a braai.

Food Photography and Styling Workshop

I feel I know Jeanne already through her blog, on Twitter and as she is a dear friend of Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey? who is returning back to Dubai in October to host another Food Photography and Styling Workshop, this time at the beautiful Miele Gallery plus we’ve got a fabulous field trip to Atlantis, The Palm.

And back to those prawns….

Piri piri prawns

Hot peri-peri sauce, Mozambique-style

Makes enough for about 24 prawns or 1 kilo chicken pieces


10 red birds-eye chillies
90ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
a few strips of thinly pared lemon rind
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar or molasses
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of white wine vinegar
sea salt
flat leaf parsley or coriander to garnish

Lemons, chillies, garlicMethod

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use. Put raw, cleaned, tail-on tiger prawns into a bowl and pour over enough sauce to coat. Leave for 2-3 minutes only. Thread onto pre-soaked wooden skewers or put straight on the bars of the barbecue (high direct heat). Grill for about 2 minutes and turn over for about 1 more minute. When the prawns are opaque they are done. Serve immediately with a little more dipping sauce if you like mega-spicy! For chicken, marinate the pieces for at least 30 minutes (or longer) before barbecuing.

Good with a yoghurt, lime and coriander dip.

Wondering about the link with Africa, Portugal, America and peri peri? An interesting Wikipedia piece here.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Tribes, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, UAE.

African food – what does it mean to you? Tripe – love it, hate it or would never touch it with a barge pole? I’d love to know what you think…

  1. flavorsofthesun permalink
    September 23, 2012 6:36 am

    Love the chiles spelling out “Africa.” Nice recipe as well.

    • September 23, 2012 2:04 pm

      I had fun doing that (and very hot hands!)

  2. September 23, 2012 6:42 am

    I wish I could whip across the world and be at the food photography class. Nice pics!

    If you could buy any camera (there is a big sale at a camera store that is closing near me) what would you buy?

    • September 23, 2012 2:11 pm

      I’m still on a big learning curve as far as photography is concerned. I have learned that it’s usually the lens that makes the most difference and lenses are least talked about. Nikon and Canon are the two most popular choices in DSLR (I presume that you are not thinking of a point and shoot). I have the Nikon D5000 which is compact and also has a High definition video camera. The lens I use most for food photography is a 50mm 1.8 but because there is no motor in the body of the camera I have to use the little light in the view-finder to get it into focus. I think the D90 would ensure full auto-focus. The kit lens that came with the camera 18-55 is a good all purpose although I am saving up for 55-200mm. For landscapes I’ve got a 35mm wide angle (fixed or prime lens) which I’ve had a lot of fun with (relatively uncostly too). Hope that’s helpful. I email, tweeted, chatted and read a load of food blogs before I took the plunge…it’s expensive equipment and you don’t always get it right!

  3. September 23, 2012 7:26 am

    Beautiful pics Sally. I love spicy prawns, any way they are done. Have fun at food blogger connect

    • September 23, 2012 2:12 pm

      Thanks Sarah – I can’t wait

  4. bettybooindubai permalink
    September 23, 2012 7:57 am

    Love this article Sally, and will make the Peri-Peri sauce soon

    • September 23, 2012 2:12 pm

      It was great fun being at this event with you. Loved how it reminded you of your Kilimanjaro trip.

  5. September 23, 2012 8:42 am

    My mom would love those spicy peri-peri prawns! Great article Sally, and I’m glad those photos helped. I think we should do this more often at dinners…I can be my lazy self and stick to photo snapping, and you do your magic with words! Allows for optimal meal enjoyment too, without having to juggle the camera, the notebook and the fork all at once! 😉

    • September 23, 2012 2:13 pm

      Still need to pick your brains about how your pics look that good! I’m finally shooting in RAW and have dipped my toe into Photoshop – shock horror.

  6. September 23, 2012 8:47 am

    Fantastic Sally, the way you have written Africa with the chillies and absolutely longing for the Piri Piri Prawns… and the article really begins with the absolute truth – generally we have such blurry notions about food from the vast continent.

    Have a great time in the Blogger Connect. Many good wishes from all the foodies in UAE, waiting to hear all that happens there. And many thinks for tagging me in – really sweet of you!

    • September 23, 2012 2:14 pm

      As always you were terrific company. Thanks for giving me the credit for cutting everyone’s food up for them!

  7. September 23, 2012 9:46 am

    Have a great time with Jeanne and at blogger connect 🙂

    • September 23, 2012 2:14 pm

      I’ve got a feeling we will have a ball!

  8. Felicia Mavro permalink
    September 23, 2012 10:26 am

    I love peri peri anything. Prawns sound mouthwatering.
    As for tripe not a great fan of it. Great read..

    • September 23, 2012 2:16 pm

      Thanks Felicia – I can’t ever imagine loving tripe….but it was good to try it. They cook it for hours and hours with lots of herbs and spices.

  9. September 23, 2012 1:03 pm

    Thanks so much for linking to my blog! Lovely post.

    • September 23, 2012 2:17 pm

      You are welcome – there is always a wealth of interesting information there – I was good timing that I was just writing about Africa when I read that post.

  10. September 23, 2012 1:06 pm

    I’ve made a few African dishes (Moroccan, Ethiopian and South African mainly), but know little about the this immense continent’s regional foods…

    This dish looks amazing and so tasty!



    • September 23, 2012 2:18 pm

      Ethiopian food – now that sounds interesting…off to look at your blog and Google.

  11. September 23, 2012 1:37 pm

    Inspiring, tantalising and evocative – you always deliver delicousness Sally! Thank you! Enjoy blogger connect – you will be a gift to the attendees.

    • September 23, 2012 2:18 pm

      What a touching and generous comment Tara. Many, many thanks.

  12. September 23, 2012 6:31 pm

    Delicious looking, and I can only imagine how heavenly it all smelled! I too know next to nothing about the cooking of the many African countries, but realise that it would be something you could never generalise about – far too diverse in culture, geography and politics (re food and ag policies). My husband, although British, was born and lived hie early years in Lusaka, Zambia. His mother, a fabulous cook, has given me a few recipes from her time there and sometimes I make them, always wondering why I don’t do it more often. I love how they make vegetables the centre, with meat usually having a garnishing and flavouring role. Piri Piri prawns was a huge favourite of my husband’s and this looks a great recipe to surprise him with. Hope to see you at FBC 2012. First-timer nerves here though. Btw, I only tried tripe recently, in Italy. I wouldn’t say it is my favourite thing in the world but it was much nicer than I had anticipated. Very soft and not at all chewy.

  13. September 24, 2012 3:35 am

    Just discovered your blog after following a comment you posted on mine 🙂 Thank you! I’m thrilled to discover My Custard Pie. Your recipes look amazing and your photos are gorgeous!

  14. Sara permalink
    September 24, 2012 7:11 am

    Gorgeous! These shrimp looks really fantastic…love the flavors going on, YUM!

  15. September 24, 2012 8:14 am

    I LOVE the “Africa” photo! Imagine finding traditional African fare in Dubai! How wonderful. Dave lived in Zimbabwe for 2 years, and so I’ve heard a lot about the food of Zim and South Africa. The shrimp recipe looks delicious and and the photos are, in fact, making me hungry right now!

  16. September 25, 2012 12:02 pm

    Aaah – nice to read about your evening at Tribes – I remember we were chatting about it the day before you went! I am guessing Sipho was South African – it’s a really common Zulu/Xhosa name 🙂 The food sounds pretty authentic too – trips and “mealiepap” is very popular in S Africa (as are piri piri prawns!). Thanks so much for taking part (three years!! Time does fly…) and can’t wait to meet you on Thursday! If it’s cold, hubby has agreed to braai while we watch from the conservatory LOL!

    • October 3, 2012 10:07 pm

      Mealiepap was what he called it – you would have felt right at home!

  17. September 25, 2012 10:07 pm

    Love the chiles spelling out “Africa.” It was a great shot & very original too! I love the dish! Very me! And I also love the giraffe spoon! 🙂 MMMMM!

    • October 3, 2012 10:11 pm

      A dear friend brought the spoon from Zambia – who knew it would come in handy in such a setting?

  18. October 3, 2012 11:32 am

    Sally, so wonderful to be transported through your post! I went to Africa in August (Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar) and had such an amazing time! The food was amazing and reminded me so much of our colourful and spicy Jamaican food. It was just amazing! Your photos are really awesome! Way to go!

    • October 3, 2012 10:11 pm

      Thank you so much. I like spicy of all description!

  19. October 6, 2012 3:41 pm

    Fantastic! I have a huge jar of molasses waiting in my pantry. Spring has sprung here, and this looks like the perfect light, out-doorsy dinner. Love your giraffe spoon!

  20. October 12, 2012 7:37 am

    What a gorgeous pic. Thanks for stopping by and liking my blog.


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